City workers are set to return Angels Flight, which calls itself the "world's shortest railway," to the downtown area -- nearly 40 years after it was dismantled.
Foremen Ken Johnson and Jim Toomey were busy securing the railway's funicular tracks Thursday afternoon and Johnson reported that the two cars will be transported from the Metro yard to the base of Bunker Hill this weekend. Testing begins next week, and preservationists hope that Angels Flight will be running by Thanksgiving. Christmas may be the realistic goal, Johnson quietly said.
The rail cars of Angels Flight returning to the tracks in late 2008 is part of the ongoing story of stops and stalls. It was first put into service in 1901, rising alongside the Third Street Tunnel before it was dismantled in 1969 due to low ridership, lack of funding, and changing Bunker Hill.
The track, station and rail cars were stored, then restored and moved one-half block away as part of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s (CRA) California Plaza development. It reopened with civic fanfare February 24, 1996 and connected the Watercourt at California Plaza to Hill Street near another CRA revitalization project, Grand Central Market, until a fatal accident closed the line in 2001.
When Angels Flight returns to its third life, it will be a different downtown from just a few years ago, and its stops may change. Bunker Hill is now often referred to as Grand Avene, and Grand Central Market may be overshadowed by downtown’s Historic Core -- or even Broadway if it comes back.
As for those who have followed the saga of Angels Flight, many are optimistic and expect to see it running again. Still, they will not really believe it until they see two cars, known as Olivet and Sinai, pulling passengers up the 30 percent grade that's called the “shortest railway in the world.”